Photo by: Matt Cutshall – NHS
April 28th at 11:44 PM Edt atop a Falcon, from SLC-40 at Canaveral Space Force Station
Tonight the block five Falcon 9 booster number 1060 made it’s seventh flight for the company SpaceX. This comes as the twelfth flight for a Falcon 9 rocket in the year 2021, all of which have flown previously and is now the fourth booster to fly seven times. In the span of less than ten minutes this rocket launched, separated from the second stage to send the payload to the proper orbit and returned to Earth landing on the drone ship “Just Read The Instructions” which is stationed about 633km downrange in the Atlantic Ocean.
Booster 1060, after it launched tonight became the 115th flight of a Falcon 9 rocket and the 69th launch from SLC-40 at Canaveral Space Force Station. It’s also the third fastest turn around time between flights at just thirty-six days when it last flew for the Starlink L22 mission on March 24th of this year. Twenty-seven days before that it flew Starlink L18 and before that the Turksat 5A mission in January of 2021. Previous to that it was two more Starlink missions and it’s first flight of GPS III SV03 in June of 2020.
Tonight’s payload is another batch of sixty Starlink satellites. Elon Musk’s internet company which he plans to use in funding more of his Starship program and provide high speed, low latency internet at affordable rates across the world. To make this happen SpaceX has started launching satellites to form a network of 11,716 total, yet in 2019 they filed and applications with the FCC (Federal Communication Commission) for permission to launch and additional 30,000 Starlinks as phase two of the program. With so many satellites planned to be in the night sky astronomers are concerned that their effect could start blocking out observations they are trying to make. SpaceX has been working with the astronomy community and implementing changes to the satellites which will make them harder to see from the ground and added a sunshade to reduce the amount of light reflected off of them. So far the changes have significantly decreased the effect on the night sky.
Both fairings on tonight’s mission are reported to be brand new and remember the GO MS Chief, and GO MS Tree are no longer in service for SpaceX. These fairings will come back to Earth and splash down into the ocean where they will be pulled out for reuse by the newest vessel in the SpaceX fleet, the Sheila Bordelon. Weather predicted by the 45th Space Wing held at an 80% GO for launch and we saw things proceed smoothly through the countdown